Published 1/23/18 in Technical.ly Baltimore

It’s the second go-round of our list of the area’s most promising startups.

There are lots of ways for a startup to stand out, form big hires to notable investors to memorable pitches.

Along with all the work of setting up a company, growth can be a little dizzying. So both inside Technical.ly and from the community at large, we get a lot of questions about who’s “real.”

That’s why we at Technical.ly created the realLIST: a roundup of the top companies who have already shown promise, and whose moves we’ll be tracking closely in the new year. (By the way, this informed analysis is a keystone of the community journalism we produce at Technical.ly. If you find this information valuable and unique, please consider becoming a member.)

So what are some factors that go into determining who’s legit?

For one, a bold idea. The founders themselves are also important. Plenty of investors we’ve talked to identify team as one of the key factors in choosing where to invest (often more so than the “idea” of the company itself). There are also factors like customers and revenue, investment capital, team size, potential impact and office space.

To be considered for our realLIST companies had to:

  • Be no more than three years old. That sunset period stems from Technical.ly cofounder Christopher Wink’s 2012 definition of a startup. This sunset period took away lots of members of last year’s list, as well as companies that have successfully moved out of that early stage where they’re figuring out their business model. We had to draw the line somewhere.
  • Make the majority of their revenue from a product. That means agencies were not eligible.
  • Have not exited or undergone an acquisition or something close to that nature (See also: 2017, a big year for exits.)

(One important caveat about this list: Not making this list does not mean we deem a startup “unreal.” This is simply a snapshot of what we’re most excited about right now.)

And so, here is Technical.ly Baltimore’s 2018 realLIST:

10. Danae Prosthetics

MICA alum Winston Frazer brings an artist’s eye to the creation of replacement limbs, while taking advantage of tech tools such as 3D printing. Working as part of the first West Baltimore cohort of Conscious Venture Lab and snagging room to work at Harbor Designs and Manufacturing, the startup exemplifies the growing boundaries of Baltimore’s tech community.

9. MF Fire

The fact it’s hardware startup and founded by fire scientists got our attention. The amount of tech packed into its next-generation wood stove shows smart-home prowess, and it’s already ahead of regulations coming in the next couple of years. In 2017, the company collected the first investment from the Maryland Momentum Fund and started shipping its first stoves, setting up the potential for a big year in 2018.

8. B360

We see lots of combinations of disparate disciplines, but the combination of dirt bikes and STEAM education was enough to cause us to stop and listen. Then we met founder Brittany Young, whose commitment to helping West Baltimore comes through immediately. She had a big year going through Johns Hopkins’ Social Innovation LabRed Bull Amaphiko Academy and winning the Black Girl Ventures Boss Up Competition. Look for the programming to spread in 2018.

7. CourseArc

An edtech startup that goes beyond K–12, this company’s platform helps instructors design elearning courses even if they don’t have tech expertise. A year of growth in 2017 was cemented with a new partner that happens to be close to home in Baltimore County Public Schools.

6. b.well

This connected health startup returns to the list after CEO Kristen Valdesrecently told M-1 Ventures that the company has gone from “pipeline to firehose mode” when it comes to sales.

5. Proscia

The core team of this company started working on bringing machine learning to the analysis of cancer biopsy images when they were undergrads at Johns Hopkins. Now based out of Spark Baltimore, the company continues to grow through partnerships as it looks to change the way digital pathology has been done for 150 years.

4. Intelehealth

The company founded by graduates of the Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design are taking on the challenge of getting healthcare to areas of the world where going to a primary care doctor involves lots of barriers. Serving these remote areas means setting up telemedicine systems that can help workers navigate health considerations, as well as working over low-bandwidth internet connectivity. The team led by CEO Neha Goel is expanding with a pair of pilots in India, as well as with work in Haiti.

3. FactoryFour

This startup was on the list last year under the name of Fusiform Medical. Since then, the founders changed the name and made a savvy pivot that grew out of their initial technology. It helped them move beyond health to pretty much any category that involves manufacturing.

2. Osmosis

Founded by Johns Hopkins medical school students, the personalized learning startup might be behind a health explainer video you watched recently. The year was marked by team growth, and even a move into print. We’re interested to see what direction they’ll grow in 2018.

1. Ready Robotics

The company that makes a product dubbed the “Swiss Army Knife of Robots” doubled down on City Garage with expansion, and is looking to expand thanks to a unique distribution deal with Arnold Automation. This startup sits squarely at the center of the conversation about the future of manufacturing. Continued success could show that automation doesn’t necessarily mean lost jobs.

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Honorable mention (in no particular order):

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